Paul Milburn

About Paul Milburn

Paul's Blog
Paul Milburn serves on the Worship Team at Redeemer Christian Church in Marshfield, WI. He hopes to pursue a Master of Divinity in the future and serve overseas, reaching people in third world countries. When he manages to put a book down, he enjoys writing, cooking and playing board games with friends.



The Hole in our Holiness Book Review

The Hole in our Holiness Book Review

The Hole in Our Holiness

by Kevin Deyoung
Length: Approximately 5 hours.
TCB Rating:
five-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

As Christians, we are called to be holy, as God makes clear in 1 Peter 1:14-16. For most of us, this seems like a challenging request to fulfill, but it is expected of us. In this book, Kevin DeYoung gives us a look at what holiness looks like in our lives and how we get there.

Who should read this?

This book is for anyone who calls themselves a Christian. It doesn’t matter if you feel like you don’t need holiness, or if you feel like you are on your A-game, or if you, like myself, try to be holy but feel yourself falling short, this book has something for you.

The Hole in our Holiness Book Review 1SUMMARY

Kevin DeYoung writes in a way that is, in the words of John Piper, “ruthlessly Biblical”, but is also easily understandably by the average Christian.  The use of the word “holiness” in the title may scare some away for fear of hyper-Biblical language, but DeYoung does a good job at keeping confusing terminology to a minimum.

The book is written in a way so as to first defend the idea that we – that is, the Church as a whole – are lacking in holiness, working its way through our need for holiness, the possibility of being holy, and finally how to be holy and what that looks like.  It is written in such a way, however, that one barely notices the transitions, because they are woven together so well.

An honest reading of the Bible will clearly reveal to anyone that God expects holiness from His followers. After all, He is holy, and for us to enter into His presence, we must be holy. The Bible also seems to imply that holiness is perfectly obtainable for us.  Many Christians, however, don’t seem to believe this, acting and even talking as if holiness is wishful thinking.

Some might be so bold as to say that we will be made holy when we meet Jesus face-to-face, which is true, but it falls short of the full truth.  Few dare to agree with the Bible in saying that holiness is possible. DeYoung is one person who dares not only to say this, but to say that it is achievable for any Christian, not just for the spiritual elite.

The first few chapters are spent defending the idea that the Church is lacking in holiness.  For this, DeYoung cites primarily the personal experiences of himself and others he knows, but he also allows the reader the chance to test their own holiness with a three-question, Bible-based pop quiz.  This chapter also touches on what holiness is and what it isn’t.

Next, we read about why holiness is important to people who calls themselves believers. If 1 Peter 1:14-16 isn’t enough, DeYoung goes through entire lists of Scripture passages that indicate a need for holiness. He even admits that these lists could be longer, filled with even more verses to support his argument. Quite frankly, further evidence is unnecessary.

Okay, so let’s say you acknowledge that God calls us to be holy, but this simply isn’t truly possible to us this side of eternity, right?  Wrong! DeYoung reminds us that the definition of holy actually has nothing to do with perfection – something that is impossible in this life – but means that we are to be set apart.  God is perfectly holy because he is perfectly set apart, among countless other perfections.

He knows that we cannot obtain this, so to think that He would command such in His Word is, quite frankly, absurd.  One might argue that we are only able to be holy because of Christ working in us, and this is true, but this still is meant to occur in this life, not the next. It is possible.

Finally, DeYoung spends the majority of the book looking at what holiness actually looks like and how we achieve it.  As just mentioned, it is ultimately only possible through Christ working in us, but there are still things that we do in our quest for holiness.  We aren’t benchwarmers for Jesus, we are active participants on His team. Throughout this section he uses Scripture – sometimes a lot of Scripture – to continuously support his points.

The book concludes with a small section of study questions for you to ask yourself, as well as a listing of every Scriptural reference in the book.  To get an idea for the amount of Scripture used, DeYoung has quoted from every one of the books of Moses and the books of wisdom, two of the books of history, two major prophets and a minor prophet, and all but four books of the New Testament.

ANALYSIS

Personal Perspective

To say I enjoyed this book would be an understatement.  The pop quiz in the first chapter was a bit of a lesson in humility for me, as well as a huge wake-up call.  I think this was intended, both to get the readers’ attention and also to make a point. Driving home the point, several of the points he references, especially the ones on page 12, I can further attest to through my own experiences.  If there is anyone who finds themselves unable to agree with these points, I’ll either call their bluff or inform them that they are incredibly blessed.

Strengths

This book’s biggest strength is its existence.  I have a to-read list a mile long, and I became painfully aware while reading this book that few, if any, of those books are about holiness. This is because so few people write about holiness, which in turn is because so few people, relatively speaking, desire it.  Although such books do exist, they are not common, so another book on the topic, as long as it is based primarily in Scripture, is more than welcome.

This leads to another point.  This book is, indeed, firmly rooted in the Word of God.  As mentioned earlier, there are quotes from almost every book in the New Testament, as well as large portions of the Old Testament as well.  There are literally lists of Scripture quotes in some chapters driving home the point again and again. If you don’t believe the word of a man – and the words of any human should be taken with a grain of salt, anyway – you should believe the Word of God when it is so clearly laid out in front of your face.

Weaknesses

Unfortunately, this incredible use of Scripture can, paradoxically, be a bad thing, too.  Those lists are helpful – when you are looking at them. Then you encounter another list and the previous list is gone from your mind.  I honestly don’t remember much from the lists of Scripture, I just remember the sheer quantity of it. On the bright side, though, this is the only weakness that I can find in this book, and it is a pretty weak weakness.

Conclusion

This book was absolutely vital.  If anything, we need more like it.  We are all called to be holy, but society calls us to do what we want – and what we want is often the opposite of being holy.  Society is fine with this, many churches are fine with this (as long as we don’t dive headfirst into blatant sin), and even our closest Christian friends – the ones who are meant to challenge us and push us towards holiness – are also perfectly fine with this.  

We’ve reduced holiness to a few fairly simple commands – “Don’t drink, smoke, cuss, or chew, or hang around with those that do” – and we think we’re good to go. What went wrong was we stopped looking at what God expects and started looking at what the world expects, and we started compromising.  The perceived uptightness of the Puritans wasn’t the cool thing to do, so we relaxed a few rules here and there, until they became so relaxed that anything goes.

If the Church is to be the light of the world, this needs to change. I don’t claim to know where to draw a line between holiness and unholiness, and in most aspects, neither did DeYoung.  However, it is clear that being holy means not following the world, and instead following God once more. It may not be the cool thing to do in this world, but both DeYoung and myself can guarantee that we absolutely will not regret it in the life to come.

 

Favorite Quotes

“The hole in our holiness is that we don’t really care much about it.” -p.10

“No matter what you profess, if you show disregard for Christ by giving yourself over to sin – impenitently and habitually – then heaven is not your home.” -p.14

“Any gospel which purports to save people without also transforming them is inviting easy-believism.” -p.30

“Because when it comes to growth in godliness, trusting does not put an end to trying.” -p.91

“But I’ve written this book to make you hopeful about holiness, not make you hang your head.” -p.107

five-stars
By | 2018-05-31T01:29:17+00:00 May 23rd, 2018|

Every Man’s Battle Book Review

Every Man’s Battle Book Review

Every Man's Battle

by Fred Stoeker, Stephen Arterburn
Length: Approximately 8 hours.
TCB Rating:
five-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

Men are bombarded daily with all manner of images that try to entice us into sexual sin, from movies to magazines to billboards and everything in between. Sadly, many of us fall into these sins and feel trapped, but Every Man’s Battle shows us that we don’t have to remain there.

Who should read this?

As the name of the book suggests, it is geared towards men. More specifically, it is geared towards married men. While it does give some advice to single men, there is a book (by the same authors) called “Every Young Man’s Battle” that is geared towards teens and college-aged single men. That said, I would not discourage anyone of the male gender from reading this book, regardless of age or marital status.

Every Man's Battle Book Review 1

SUMMARY

The How

The authors of this book come from a variety of backgrounds, but they do have a few things in common.  First, they are all men. Second, they have all battled – and achieved victory over – sexual sins that their maleness makes them prone to.  They write in a way that will resonate with every man who reads it. They employ humor where appropriate while maintaining a serious demeanor regarding the severity and consequences of sin.

The book is structured in a way that follows a logical progression: first, we realize where we are – that is, lost in sin; second, how we got to where we are at; third, making the choice to fight for victory over our sin; fourth, how to actually achieve victory.  This is helpful because we need to recognize where we are before we can clearly see how we got here, and knowing the path into sin helps us find the path out.

The Why

In our modern culture, images that entice men into sexual sin abound.  For years they have been found in pornographic magazines, tempting men at the newsstand.  Now, however, a quick internet search can bring up any type of imagine a man might want to look at, and it can be done from the palm of your hand thanks to modern technology like smartphones.  

Worse still, we are bombarded by sensual images against our will. If you have ever driven down the interstate and seen scantily-clad women on billboards, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  This does not even account for the living, breathing women that surround us, who may not realize how the way they dress affects us, or who may be dressing a certain way for precisely that reason. This does not, however, remove our responsibility to avoid sexual sin.

Visually driven creatures that we are, however, we often fail.  Some may feel that their failures – eying a beautiful woman in a bikini on the beach, for example – are nothing to stress about, nothing sinful, but Jesus says otherwise.  Others recognize the depths of their sin, but they feel they have no control over their eye that keeps bouncing to look at every new jogger running past. Still others have become so desensitized that they do not realize the effects caused by watching the R-rated movies, perhaps even watching with their spouse.  All of these are sinful, but the good news is that each can be overcome.

The What

As previously mentioned, the authors first make sure readers are on the same page about where we are and explaining how we got here.  To do so, they share their own stories as well as the stories of some others they have worked with over the years. (They continue to share such stories throughout the entirety of the book.)  These stories range from looking at lingerie models in department store newspaper inserts to a fender bender caused by an author eying a jogger on the Pacific Coast Highway.

After knowing where we are and how we got here, we have to decide that we want to have victory, and then we learn how to actually achieve victory.  As with any sin, we can only choose victory in a manner that will actually be effective when we hate the sin more than we love the high we get out of the sin.  Once we get to that point, though, the choice becomes easy, and victory is within reach.

Achieving victory is divided into three parts: eyes, mind, and heart.  Victory with the eyes focuses on our tendency to glance or even stare at that which tempts us, knowingly or unknowingly.  Victory with the mind focuses on our tendency to fantasize about sexual things in a way that is lustful and sinful. Victory with the heart focuses on teaching men to love their wives (rending this section of limited use to single men) in the way that God intended.

ANALYSIS

Personal Perspective

I really enjoyed reading this book because of the humor, and also because I related easily with many of the men whose stories are related within.  I knew long before I got to the section on achieving victory that, if these men achieved it, then I could to, because, quite frankly, some of them have delved quite deeply into sin and escaped.

That said, I am not a married man, and so portions of this book do not apply directly to me at this point in my life, including the section on victory with the heart.  As such, I fully intend to re-read this book periodically to ensure I continue to live my life free of these sins and to apply the principles contained within as they become applicable to my life.

Strengths

Being written by several men about a topic aimed at men, it really cannot be argued that the authors do not know what they are talking about.  Each of them has battled the temptations they are writing about, and they have achieved victory, so they know that the victory they are writing about is not some hypothetical achievement that we can hope for, but it is something that can certainly be achieved.

Additionally, the authors’ arguments are firmly rooted in Scripture.  They don’t beat down the door with an overwhelming number of Scripture verses, but they do give a handful that drive the point home. Some may say that this is a weakness, because we are to base everything we do and believe on Scripture, but I think that saying more with less, even when quoting Scripture, can sometimes be more powerful, because if it appears even once in Scripture, then it is the Word of God and is to be obeyed.

Weaknesses

The biggest flaw that I saw while reading this book was that the authors occasionally went into too much description when talking about stories from their own past.  If I am trying to learn how to break sinful habits relating to lust, I do not particularly care to read much about how a particular jogger looks. It would suffice to say that the person in question was attractive.  The minds of readers will fill in details on their own, anyway, so giving anything more to go on is just overkill.

A secondary flaw is simply in the fact that the book does not really give any indication that it is targeted at married men, and I am not entirely sure it was initially meant to be geared in that direction.  It is, after all, Every Man’s Battle, not just some men’s battle or married men’s battle.  As the book progresses, though, it gives more and more advice that is very clearly aimed at married men.  The entire section on victory with the heart is about loving your wife properly, something a single man simply cannot do (although he can and should prepare to do so by following after Christ and training himself in godliness).

CONCLUSION

Given the pervasiveness of lust and sexual sin in our culture, it should not come as a surprise to anyone that books such as this can readily be found.  Even non-Christian versions can be found in almost any major bookstore.

What I think sets this book apart is that it doesn’t just illustrate the need for change (anyone with a Bible and the ability to read can do that) and then give a charge for more prayer (the book actually talks about how one author’s prayers, in general, were ineffective because of his sexual sin) and legalistic action that doesn’t get to the root of the issue, but rather, it gives a course of action that avoids legalism and can be easily followed by the average man.

FAVORITE QUOTES

  • “After five years in California, I found myself with four ‘steady’ girlfriends simultaneously.  I was sleeping with three of them and was essentially engaged to marry two of them. None knew of the others.”-p.14 
  • “The sin remained because I’d never really changed, never rejected sexual sin, never escaped sexual slavery.  I’d merely exchanged masters.”-p.20 
  • “The question I should have been asking was, How holy can I be?”-p.50 
  • “To varying degrees, each of us became ensnared by these choices, but we can overcome this affliction.  Far too often, however, we ignore our own responsibility in this.”-p.91 
  • “But since impurity is a habit, it can be changed.  You have hope, because if it lives like a habit, it can die like a habit.”-p.106
five-stars
By | 2018-03-11T00:54:39+00:00 March 11th, 2018|

The Cross Centered Life Book Review

The Cross Centered Life Book Review

The Cross Centered Life

by C.J. Mahaney
Length: Approximately 2 hours. To read (96 pages)
TCB Rating:
five-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

Sometimes the easiest truths to forget are also the most important truths to remember. In A Cross Centered Life, C.J. Mahaney helps us to rediscover the truth that first saved us and re-establish it as the most important truth in our lives.

Who should read this?

This book is for any Christian who lacks joy, who is not consistent in their spiritual growth, whose love for God lacks passion, who is always looking for some new technique, truth, or experience to pull their scattered pieces of faith together, or who simply wants to renew their outlook on the most valuable gift that has ever been given to us: the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The Cross Centered Life Book Review 1

SUMMARY

The How

C.J. Mahaney writes in a very simple tone, serious but with a few moments of humor, so that who can read this review should also be able to read the book with no problems.  The few words that he uses that fall into the category of Christianese – i.e., legalism, condemnation, and subjectivism – are briefly explained at their first use, and he uses them sparingly.

Although a more mature Christian would still benefit from this book as a reminder, especially if they have entered a period of stagnation in their faith, it is aimed primarily at less mature believers.  It should be noted that, much like mental and emotional maturity, spiritual maturity has nothing to do with age, or how long one has been a believer.  A person who has been a Christian for many years may benefit from this book more than a person who has only believed for a few years if their spiritual growth has been slow or stunted relative to the newer believer.

The Why

The Cross Centered Life is written to encourage believers to check that their life is truly gospel-centered and to fight common problems that distract us from living a gospel-centered life.  It points out how these issues that distract us also detract from the Person and Work of Christ on the cross if we fall into their trap, and are thus not honoring to God at best and downright sinful at worst.  

Unfortunately, we are all prone to these problems.  They can be the biggest enemies of faith because they often masquerade as faith.  All humans are prone to them, and we have been since the day Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden.

However, this is also, in a bit of ironic and beautiful mercy, helpful.  Because these issues affect each and every one of us, we can take heart in the fact that we aren’t alone.  We can use this book as a springboard to talk with other Christians who either are struggling with the same or similar problems or who have in the past.  If they say they aren’t struggling with any such problems and never have, I would hazard a guess that they perhaps are not being entirely truthful with themselves, or perhaps they are still so stuck in one of these problems that they no longer even recognize it.

The What

After giving some backdrop as to why keeping the gospel in the center of our lives is important, and how some things might get between us and the gospel, Mahaney defines the biggest three problems that he sees (which are the three Christianese words mentioned previously: legalism, condemnation, and subjectivism).  He then speaks further in depth about how they might appear in our lives in different ways, and how to fight them, devoting a chapter to each one.

In each chapter, he gives one major, solid example of what the issue looks like, followed by a more general guide to recognizing if you struggle with the given issue in your life, and then how to overcome the issue.  Naturally, as one might expect, given the title of the book, each solution ultimately boils down to our need to return to the cross of Christ, although the manner or process of doing so looks different for each issue.  Throughout all of this, references to Scripture abound, further solidifying Mahaney’s points.

From there, he talks about what a cross-centered life looks like, and he even gives five fairly simple steps that one can follow to aid in that pursuit – just be careful not to fall into legalism in doing so!  He does not claim that these five steps are necessary or even that they will help everyone, but he says they are things that help him keep the gospel at the center of his life.

To close his book, Mahaney mentions various other topics that might, at first glance, seem to be separate from the cross, and thus require us to move on in order to study further.  These topics include, among others, the Old Testament, prayer, and relationships with other people.  Each of these, he argues briefly, is still connected to the cross, which should permeate every aspect of our lives, and thus not only don’t require us to move on from the cross but actually require us to remain fixated on the cross to give them the proper treatment that they each deserve.

ANALYSIS

Personal Perspective

Honestly, I just wish this book were longer.  I love long books to start, but to have a book that is so gospel-saturated is beyond wonderful, second only to the gospel itself.  As someone who was shown the truth of the gospel less than a decade ago, and who found this book shortly after coming to faith, I can only say that it helped me prepare for the struggles that were ahead.  

Everyone has these struggles, and even being prepared did not make me immune, but it did make it easier to recognize when I was slipping from the path of faith into paths of legalism, or self-condemnation, or subjectivism, and redirect myself perhaps earlier than I would have otherwise.  I have several books that I would recommend to new Christians who did not come from a Christian home, and this book is at the top of the list.

Strengths

Although I said I would personally prefer a long book, the short length is also a strength, because nobody really has an excuse not to read it.  At only 77 pages for the actual book (that is, not a table of contents or footnotes), and at smaller dimensions than most books, this book really should not take most people long to read – unless perhaps you are actively checking the Scripture references as you read.

For the length, Mahaney does a wonderful job of summarizing and giving examples of the three major issues that he addresses in the book.  Certainly, more room could be devoted to each of the three – I’ve seen entire books on legalism – but each is addressed concisely and accurately.  At no point does this book pretend to be exhaustive, nor does it seem that it was meant to.  Its purpose was to remind readers to keep their lives focused on the cross of Christ, and it does that job wonderful.

Weaknesses

Although Mahaney does not pretend that this book is exhaustive, he also does not explicitly say that it is not.  While I solidly recommend this book, especially to new believers, I would caution them that the pitfalls mentioned in the book are not the only ways we can stumble.  Fortunately, most people who have some level of discernment should realize this on their own, but in matters as important as faith, I would err on the side of caution.

CONCLUSION

There are a number of books that point back to Christ.  There are a number of books that point back to the cross.  There are entire theology textbooks on the atonement and what Christ did at the cross.  Despite this, I have yet to encounter a book that so directly points to Christ on the cross and says, “Never move on from [this].” (p.85)

There are many topics that we can study, and they are good topics, wonderful topics.  Ultimately, though we need to think of every topic in the light of the gospel.  Not only is the gospel the good news of salvation for the world, but it is the light by which we see every other thing in the world.  There is no topic that the gospel does not touch, and this book is a reminder of that fact.

FAVORITE QUOTES

  • “Sometimes the most obvious truths are the ones we need to be reminded of the most.” -p.15

  • “I can approach the throne of God with confidence.  Not because I’ve done a good job at my spiritual duties, but because I’m clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ” -p.35

  • “Lay down the luggage of condemnation and kneel down in worship at the feet of Him who bore your sins.” -p.44

  • “We can either listen to ourselves and our constantly changing feelings about our circumstances, or we can talk to ourselves about the unchanging truth of who God is and what He’s accomplished for us at the cross.” -p.47

  • “A cross-centered life is made up of cross-centered days.” -p.54
five-stars
By | 2018-02-20T06:45:32+00:00 February 21st, 2018|

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